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BBB’s Ugly Fine Print

Summary:
I have long favored a carbon tax to deal with global climate change. But I understand that if our leaders lack the political courage to propose one, targeted subsidies, such an electric vehicle tax credit, can be a substitute, albeit an imperfect one. In today's paper, I learned that, unfortunately, the design of this credit in the so-called Build Back Better bill aims not only at addressing climate change but also at reducing competition in the labor market and impeding international trade: The credit is ,000 if the vehicle is made at a non-union U.S. plant, but rises to ,500 if it’s made in a union-organized plant. The credit drops 0 if the car’s battery isn’t made in America, and after 2026 only cars assembled in the U.S. would qualify for the basic ,500 credit.So the

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I have long favored a carbon tax to deal with global climate change. But I understand that if our leaders lack the political courage to propose one, targeted subsidies, such an electric vehicle tax credit, can be a substitute, albeit an imperfect one. In today's paper, I learned that, unfortunately, the design of this credit in the so-called Build Back Better bill aims not only at addressing climate change but also at reducing competition in the labor market and impeding international trade: 

The credit is $8,000 if the vehicle is made at a non-union U.S. plant, but rises to $12,500 if it’s made in a union-organized plant. The credit drops $500 if the car’s battery isn’t made in America, and after 2026 only cars assembled in the U.S. would qualify for the basic $7,500 credit.

So the bill neglects the obvious first-best policy, starts with a second-best policy, and adds various extraneous provisos to make it worse.

Greg Mankiw
I am the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, where I teach introductory economics (ec 10). I use this blog to keep in touch with my current and former students. Teachers and students at other schools, as well as others interested in economic issues, are welcome to use this resource.

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